We all should be paying attention to what happened in the Georgia jury selection in the Ahmaud Arbery case. It’s nothing short of going back to Jim Crow.
Arbery was shot and killed jogging through a neighborhood when three white men chased and stopped him thinking he had committed a burglary. They were allowed to attempt to make such citizens arrests under Georgia law. But when a struggle ensued between Arbery and defendants Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, Travis McMichael ended up shooting and killing Arbery.
A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., followed the men in his truck and ended up videotaping the struggle and shooting, which was revealed sometime later and the men were charged with murder
Only one of the 12 (8%) jurors selected was Black in a county that is 25% Black. Even the judge called the selection discriminatory, but lamented Georgia law doesn’t allow him to intervene. That’s the first and biggest problem.
Georgia law, like the law in many states, allows attorneys on opposing sides to select and dismiss jurors based on how they answer questions about the case and their general attitude toward being on the jury and being able to be fair and weigh facts. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled jurors cannot be dismissed based only on their race.
Defense Attorney Laura Hogue argued she dismissed many of the Black jurors because they had already formed an opinion about the case, and Chatham County Judge Timothy Walmsley, while saying there “appears to be intentional discrimination on the panel,” bought Hogue’s argument that there were factors beyond race that allowed other Black jurors to be dismissed.
It’s rare judges accede to whims of flimsy arguments of lawyers when the truth is staring them in the face, but apparently Walmsley has taken this back door exit from his responsibility to see justice is served in his courtroom.
State prosecutor Linda Dunikoski called the defense selections discriminatory as even the jury pool was 25 percent Black at the start of selection. Some 1,000 people were called to jury duty, a much higher number than normal due to the high profile nature of the case.
Compounding the problem was the court allowed defense twice the usual number of jurors they could dismiss from 12 to 24. Prosecution was only allowed to dismiss 12.
Federal courts have charged the men with federal hate crimes. The miscarriage of justice here is egregious, and federal courts should step in and put a stop to it.